“If I can do it, you can, too!” That’s what Janet Rodarte tells her fifth-grade students at Ketelsen Elementary when one of them is on the verge of giving up.
She tells them her story, about being the daughter of two immigrants from Acuna, Coahuila, and stepping into the classroom speaking only Spanish, to let them know she understands.
“As the daughter of two immigrants who came to the United States for a better life, I know that if you have the mentality to succeed, you will,” Rodarte says.
Rodarte was recently named 2016-17 Bilingual Teacher of the Year by the Houston Area Association for Bilingual Educators (HAABE). She will advance to the state level Texas Association for Bilingual Education (TABE) competition.
Rodarte credits an early teacher at Janowski Elementary, Janie Lin Ordaz, with setting her on the path to education.
“Mrs. Ordaz made me feel at ease with the English language,” Rodarte says. “Spanish was all I knew. She introduced me to a whole new language that made me the bilingual educator I am today.”
Rodarte tries to bring that same sense of ease to her own students and says the most important quality of a bilingual teacher is the connection they make with every “scholar” in the classroom.
“A bilingual educator must establish a relationship with the scholar so that the student can feel at ease when they face those obstacles all bilingual students encounter,” Rodarte says. “The teacher and the scholar encounter these challenges as a team. A true bilingual teacher assures all scholars that failure is not an option.”
Rodarte, who teaches reading, math and social studies, was honored at a banquet Saturday at Hilton University of Houston. Finalists for the district’s bilingual teacher of the year honor included Lisette Arzate of Davila Elementary; Karina Garcia of Mark White Elementary; and Karen Lloréns of Mistral Early Childhood Center.
District finalists for ESL Teacher of the Year were Tham Luong of Park Place Elementary; Lan Vy Tran of Ed White Elementary; Rene Lugo of Cornelius Elementary; and Shara Hucklebly of Lyons Elementary. The district’s secondary ESL Teacher of the Year finalist was Thailandia Gabriela Bustamante of Stevenson Middle.